This week on Author on the Couch,
I conduct a session with
Nichole is giving away an e-copy of THE KILL BOX to one lucky person who leaves a comment!
Me: Tell me about an experience that had a profound impact on your life.
Nichole: My grandparents lived with me and my parents, or next door to us, throughout my entire childhood. In fact, my grandmother, who will be 100 shortly, still lives with my mom. And this anecdote is about her.
My grandfather was the love of her life. They spent almost seventy-five years together. Sadly, he passed away when I was 16.
Before his funeral, my large, extended family gathered at our house, mourning him, and supporting Grandma. But she needed a quiet moment. She came to me and asked me, with my brand new driver’s license, to drive her to the funeral home. I was surprised she turned to me instead of my uncles, any of my adult cousins, or my mom. But I did as she asked. I drove her to the funeral home where she could have a quiet moment with the man she’d lost. In many ways, it was a coming-of-age for me.
Me: What a sweet story. You must be very special to your grandma.
What personality trait of yours helps you most as an author?
Nichole: I’m an optimist. I believe I’ll surely come up with a great premise after another cup of tea, or that I’ll be able fix that crummy paragraph tomorrow. Being an optimist as a writer is a great asset because so much of the creative process—and the publishing industry—can be discouraging.
Me: What personality trait of yours hinders you most as an author?
Nichole: I’m an optimist. (Wait! Didn’t I just say that?) But it’s true! Being an optimist can be a hindrance as well because I can find it difficult to give my characters a hard time. I read all these fabulous, Noir-ish novels with heavy-hitting themes and poignant moments, and I just end up sending my characters on picnics in sun-drenched fields of clover. Well, that’s not quite the case. I do like to write happy endings with justice served, however, and I think that’s because I’m an optimist.
Me: Lol. It’s funny how one personality trait can be both good and bad–depending on the context.
What was your high point as a writer?
Nichole: I hit a definite high point when my agent called to say we had a multi-title offer from my now-editor, Kate Miciak, senior vice-president at Random House. Kate has edited writers I admire, from Sue Grafton to Robert Crais to Lisa Gardner, and she’s the editor who first came across this awesome character named Reacher. (Have you see Tom Cruise in the movie based on that character?) In fact, Kate edits Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series to this day. It still boggles my mind when I stop and think, “Wow, and she wants to work with me!”
Me: I have seen the movie! Wow!
What was your low point as a writer?
Nichole: When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a secret notebook filled with short stories. I even started writing a novel. I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure how to do it or in what form. Still, I knew I needed to start somewhere so, one day after school, I confessed to my English teacher that I wanted to write, and I asked him about submitting stories and articles to magazines.
He sneered at me and said, “No one would ever pay you for anything you write.”
He should’ve just kicked me in the gut—because with that one sentence, he caused me to doubt all the other teachers who’d told me for years that I was a good writer. He made me suspicious of all the writing accolades I’d earned. Worst of all, he shook my faith in my own abilities.
But even as I walked down the hallway after that meeting, I told myself through clenched teeth that he was a jerk and he was wrong. I would write. And I would earn money for it. Money hadn’t been my goal, but it was the benchmark he’d thrown in my face, so I vowed to earn some with writing some day.
Still, I let writing go by the wayside. In fact, I shied away from it. I went to college for broadcasting. I double-majored in Radio and Television. In the workforce, though, it was always my writing ability that made the difference, got me the promotion, and earned the higher salary. And truth be told, when I cashed my writing-related paychecks, I sometimes thought of him.
Eventually, I felt like writing for me again. And eventually, I heard reports that this teacher had spoken of me to other students in the most glowing terms. Maybe he regretted what he said to me that day. I don’t know. But I do know I’m happy living in the written worlds I create, just like when I was a sophomore in high school. That teacher might’ve temporarily taken away my confidence, but he couldn’t keep it from me.
Me: Isn’t it amazing how one discouraging person can destroy a dream? I had a similar experience, but my teacher told me that if I couldn’t understand grammar, I couldn’t be a writer. I believed her… Until I hit thirty-five and convinced myself to try writing despite sucking at grammar. I wonder how many people out there never have the courage rise beyond that discouraging comment and follow their dreams?
Which of your characters are you most like? Why?
Nichole: Oh, dear. For better or for worse, I think I might be most like my protagonist, Jamie Sinclair. She’s a lot tougher than I am, but she’s a lot softer, too. Still, I’m like her because I want to see things turn out right for people struggling to do their best in this world. That’s why she’s a PI-turned-security-specialist, and in many ways, that’s why I write about a character trying to turn injustices on their ear.
Me: What’s your writer’s mantra? Why does that mantra speak to you?
Nichole: Many times, when I’m chastising myself because I’m still working a scene I’d meant to finish days ago, or I’m banging my head against the wall because I’m on my millionth draft and still can’t get a paragraph right, I stop and remind myself that “slow and steady wins the race.” That may be counterintuitive in our multi-tasking world, but the phrase takes me back to childhood and the first time I read Aesop’s Fables. My early reading experiences were so vivid, and I can still see Tortoise, doing his own thing, and reaching success at the end of the race because he didn’t give up. He didn’t rush. He just diligently kept putting one foot in front of the other. This reminds me I need to do the same thing. I just need to keep putting one word in front of the other, and I’ll get there. I believe that.
Me: Gotta love Tortoise’s philosophy!
What do you collect?
Nichole: I have a collection of old Nancy Drew novels. It includes a set from the 1930s, a set from the 1940s, and then the iconic novels with those yellow spines. They remind me of my early days as a young reader. As a kid, I was exploring the attic one June day and found an old 1940s Nancy Drew in a box of old books. I was fascinated by it and when I started reading it, I felt like I was reading a real grown-up book!
Not long after, I found a 1930s Nancy Drew at a garage sale. I think I paid a dime for it. I kept it front and center on my bookcase in my room. It was a prized possession.
And when I went back to school that fall, my teacher had the complete set of 1970s novels! She let me take them home, one by one. I did, and I read them all. That was the first time I remember being on fire to get my hands on every book in a series featuring a strong female protagonist, a good measure of romance, and a solid whodunit. Now look at what I write!
Me: Tell me about your novel THE KILL BOX.
Nichole: THE KILL BOX (Jamie Sinclair #3) is an intense thriller that’s perfect for fans of Lee Child or Lisa Gardner.
Security specialist and P.I. Jamie Sinclair tackles a cold case which could cost her the one person who means the most to her.
Hard-working Jamie Sinclair can’t wait for the weekend. She plans to be off the clock and on the road to wine country with handsome military police officer Adam Barrett. But when a strung-out soldier takes an innocent woman hostage and forces his way into Jamie’s bedroom, everything changes. Jamie’s never seen the soldier before. But he’s no stranger to Barrett—and with one word he persuades Barrett to pack a duffle and leave Jamie in the lurch.
Jamie cannot fathom why Barrett would abandon her without explanation. But as the consequences of an unsolved crime threaten to catch up with him, a late-night phone call sends Jamie racing to Barrett’s hometown in upstate New York. In a tinderbox of shattered trust and long-buried secrets, Jamie must fight to uncover the truth about what really occurred one terrible night. And the secrets she discovers deep in Barrett’s past don’t just threaten their future together—they just might get her killed.
Me: Share with us a favorite paragraph or two from THE KILL BOX.
Nichole: This paragraph always brings a lump to my throat. My protagonist, Jamie Sinclair, is a private-eye-turned-security-specialist. As the only child of a former two-star general who had the gumption to get elected to the U.S. Senate, Jamie was raised to be tough as nails. But despite her upbringing, she’s got a tender side. That mix of tough and tender, combined with her profession, often makes her the outsider, even when she just wants to belong. In this scene, sitting beneath the stars on a dark hillside beside the man she’s drawn to, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett, she comes to a startling realization about him, and about herself. And all she can do in that moment is hang on so she doesn’t fall to pieces, but even the constellation above her reminds her of the truth she must face.
I wrapped my arms around my knees in an effort to keep myself together, to keep my mind on Vance, and looked up at the dome of the sky. In bright detail against the black of the night, the constellation Perseus had just set foot above the treetops at the horizon. A stranger in a strange land, he’d taken on one bizarre injustice after another according to the Greeks—and he’d triumphed. Now, preserved among the stars, he’d tumble forever across the night for the sake of his love, the cold and remote Andromeda. And the thought of an outsider, a warrior, like Perseus, still alone after all his trials, made me want to weep.
Me: Wow! Wow! Wow! This book sounds amazing!
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Abbie Roads writes dark emotional novels featuring damaged characters, but always gives her hero and heroine a happy ending…after torturing them for three hundred pages.
*this post was formatted by Manny Goodman